Counselor

How to Find The Best Employees

Creative ways to attract star employees.

When he needs to find the next great employee for his company, Mike Michalowicz often ditches conventional wisdom. “I’ve learned not to recruit upon experience,” says Michalowicz, founder of consultancy Profit First Professionals. “The best employees should be recruited on their attitude, their intelligence, their energy and their values. Those elements cannot be trained or taught – that’s just what they bring to the table.”

Are you willing to think a little differently to recruit the very best employees? If you are, keep reading for strategies that can make your search a success.

Leverage Your Employees

A free and effective way to find great new workers is to ask your current staffers for leads. “There’s that saying: Birds of a feather flock together. Intelligent people prefer to hang out with intelligent people. People with strong energy like to hang out with people with strong energy,” Michalowicz says.

The key, according to Michalowicz, is to identify people within your organization that have traits you’re looking for in a new employee. Then, mine their personal networks for candidates. “Ask your best employees who else they know and admire, and they’ll turn you on to people just like them,” he says.

Amy Rees Anderson, managing partner of REES Capital and contributing writer for Forbes magazine, uses her employees as talent scouts. If they witnessed great service – whether it was at a drive-thru window or another customer service position – “we have little cards that our employees can hand someone,” she says. “It tells them we’re hiring and gives them a website to go to for an application.”

Anderson’s philosophy is this: you can learn a lot about a person by being their customer. “You’re getting them in their natural environment,” she says. For example, you can see how that person handles a rude customer, since “ you’re seeing them in their natural habitat, and you can make a judgment call,” she says.

Be Inexact With Online Ads

Anderson has learned not to be too precise with the want ads she posts on sites like Monster and LinkedIn. “You have to be willing to not pigeonhole the exact skillset you’re looking for,” she says. “We’ve found that when we got too specific on a job description, people would respond by listing exactly what we said we wanted.”

So, Anderson started to take a totally different approach by posting they were searching for people, not positions. “We said, ‘We’re looking for people whose values are important to them, and we’re going to figure out how to use you in our company,’” she says.

After hiring them, Anderson then trains new employees in a unique way. “Once the person is hired, we’d let them have exposure to every area in the company,” she says. “We’d see where they tended to gravitate toward, what they seemed to have a passion toward and what they had ideas about.”

Create Tests Within Ads

Michalowicz likes to develop “mini tests” within his online ads in order to gauge the attention to detail of prospective employees. “We’ll post an ad on Craigslist, but instead of listing a two-paragraph ad like our competitors, we’ll make ours into a mini novel,” he says. “Embedded in the ad, we’ll say, ‘If you’re in fact reading all these details, we want you to respond to the ad in an email with this specific subject line.’”

What that does, Michalowicz believes, is instantly root out people who are just sending back generic answers. “If we get 100 responses, maybe five of them will have the subject line exactly how we want it,” he says. “The method to getting a great employee is filtering out the bad ones, and that ad filters out the bad ones.”

Michalowicz accidently stumbled upon another test by making a simple mistake. His firm ran an ad misspelling the word “meticulous” – an error one prospective candidate noticed. She got the job. “That person didn’t feel threatened by authority when she identified the problem,” Michalowicz says. “That was a mistake, but it’s now become a test. We will actually have a misspelled word embedded into the ad.”

Ask for Video Cover Letters

Michalowicz prefers applicants who submit their cover letter in video, not written, form.

“Most respondents don’t do it,” he says. “Everyone has the capability – you can use your smartphone – and they convey their energy on it.”

Only two applicants submitted an online cover letter for one of Michalowicz’s recent job postings. His company ended up hiring one of those two applicants. “It was a no-brainer,” he says. “We spent almost no time having to go through those interviews, and this one person just outshined everybody else.”

Michalowicz asks applicants to post their videos on YouTube, which helps create additional interest for his company. “Their friends see it, and now there’s a conversation about my company” and they will apply as well, he says. “Again, good people hang out with good people, so it’s a great subtle advertisement to find what we’re looking for.”

Push Personality Profiles

Anderson was originally skeptical of using a test to help with hiring – until she came across Wonderlic’s Comprehensive Personality Profile. Anderson says the test gives you an indication of an individual’s personality, and lets you know if they would do better in a position where they’re working with data or interacting with others.

Wonderlic’s tests have helped Anderson determine the temperament and mentality of prospective employees. Anderson says the test answers important questions such as: “Are they somebody who’s going to perform because they care about competing against their own best? Or do they care about competing against other people?” she says. “That’s important, because if they’re in it just to beat others, they can be a bit of a loose cannon.”

If they’re in it, though, to beat their best, they’re more likely to be a team player, Anderson believes. “This is someone who’s going to do their best in spite of what everybody else does,” she says. “That’s really the kind of personality we look for.”

Don’t Forget Outgoing Employees

Some of Michalowicz’s best staffers are those who left for one of his competitors, but eventually decided to return. “When I have a key employee leave to go to a competitor, I make sure they’re taken care of at our organization until the last day,” he says. “Then, we tell them, ‘We wish you great success. Would you mind if I check in with you to see how things are going?’”

Michalowicz was able to talk a former employee into returning once she found out her new position wasn’t as wonderful as she thought it would be. “When you land at a new place, you find out the grass really isn’t that much greener, and often it’s not at all,” he says. “It’s on us as the owner to keep the door open and keep the communication going.”

Case Study

Guerrilla Recruiting Strategies

Feeling really bold? Amy Rees Anderson, managing partner of REES Capital and contributing writer for Forbes magazine, suggests three guerrilla marketing strategies she’s successfully used in order to find great employees for her company.

Infiltrate enemy headquarters. “We would make ‘We’re hiring’ fliers and tape them on the inside of bathroom stalls,” she says. “Employers rip them down if they find them, but as long as you get five views out of it, it’s worth it.”

Create mock labor dispute signs. “We had a big banner that said, ‘Shame on you for not applying to our company,’ with our company’s name,” she says. “People would look out the window of their complex and thought it was hilarious. We got a ton of applicants that way.”

Use a mobile hiring center. “We rented an RV and parked it outside of businesses we were looking to hire from. As the employees came out, we had someone standing by the RV handing out ‘we’re hiring’ cards,” she says. “This shows people that you’re a fun company with a fun culture.”